By Contributor on June 05, 2013

June 5 is World Environment Day, and one easy thing we can do is to pledge not to waste so much food.

We toss out 40 percent of our food in the United States, and this wastefulness accounts for some of the depleted cropland and destroyed forests that are imperiling our ecosystem.

It's also just plain costly.

Food waste in the United States, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, totals $165 billion per year. That comes to around $390 per person per year -- approximately the cost of an airplane ticket over the Fourth of July weekend.

We're wasting two-thirds of a pound of food every day. That's roughly one hamburger, a scoop of potato salad, and one ear of corn.

Now imagine tossing that entire meal in the trash -- every single day of the year.

Now imagine everyone in the country doing it.

Reclaiming just 15 percent of the wasted food in the United States could feed more than 25 million Americans each year, about half the number struggling with food insecurity. And food expert Tristram Stuart estimates that reclaiming 25 percent of the food wasted across the United States and Europe could end global malnutrition.

Here are some things you and I can do about this problem.

We can more carefully bag fruits and vegetables at checkout and learn the best way to store food at home so it doesn't go bad so quickly.

We can stop discarding food just because it goes past the "sell by," "best by," and "use by" dates on food labels. These dates don't indicate that the produce is unsafe to eat after that date, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Using our sense of smell and taste are the best way to tell if food has gone bad.

And we can stop demanding perfectly shiny, well-shaped and unblemished fruit. These strict aesthetic standards affect farmers worldwide, including in Kenya, where export farmers waste up to 40 percent of their harvest, while many locals struggle with malnutrition.

Just because the produce isn't shiny and unblemished doesn't mean it isn't healthy and tasty. It may actually be more nutritious and delicious with blemishes because it probably got doused with fewer pesticides.

Finally, donating unused food instead of tossing it in the garbage can help make the most of global food production. Information on how to donate food or receive food assistance is easily accessible through Feeding America, which runs a national food bank locator. You can also help restaurants and grocery stores donate unused food with services such as Food Donation Connection, which link businesses with food recovery organizations.

On this World Environment Day, let's be mindful not only of the food we eat but also of the food we throw out. We can save money and help preserve the environment in the process.

Danielle Nierenberg is a food and agriculture expert and co-founder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank (www.FoodTank.org). She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

Section: 

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

Subscribe to The Progressive and Get A Free 2015 Calendar

Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

On November 20 every year for the last fifteen years, transgender people gather for vigil ceremonies to acknowledge...

Yesterday the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would approve construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter